Friday, 16 July 2010

Haptics: The Next Big Thing for Virtual Worlds?

Some recent advances give us a clue what might next be in store for Virtual World and 3D Virtual gaming development in the not too-distant future, and they all centre around Haptics, the tactile feedback technology that applies forces, vibrations, mild electric shocks,  and/or motions to the user, to simulate the sense of touch. Here are some examples of the direction Haptic Technology has gone in recently.

The Holodeck
Fans of Star Trek will be quite familiar with the holodeck, depicted as an enclosed room in which objects and people are simulated by a combination of replicated matter, tractor beams, and shaped force fields onto which holographic images are projected, so the user appears to be in a nightclub, an alien world, their home planet, etc. Now, replicated matter, tractor beams and shaped force fields may be definitely science fiction, for now, but holographic images that can be touched are no longer in that realm, as of now, they are science fact.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo demonstrated the principles of Touchable Holography at the SIGGRAPH2009  exhibition in New Orleans last August. As they said at the time:

Recently, mid-air displays are attracting a lot of attention in the fields of digital signage and home TV, and many types of holographic displays have been proposed and developed. Although we can "see" holograhpic images as if they are really floating in front of us, we cannot "touch" them, because they are nothing but light.

This project adds tactile feedback to the hovering image in 3D free space. Tactile sensation requires contact with objects, but including a stimulator in the work space dilutes the appearance of holographic images. The Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display solves this problem by producing tactile sensation on a user's hand without any direct contact and without diluting the quality of the holographic projection.
By using a non-linear property of ultrasound, called acoustic radiation pressure, the researchers were able to replicate the sensation of touch when a user placed his hand beneath a holographic ball, and even produced the sensation of splashes when a hand was placed beneath holographic raindrops. They really did feel like they were splashing onto the user's hand.

I think I know where this technology will head to. How long before the first holographic boyfriend or girlfriend makes its debut, 1 year, 2 years?

Transparent Touch Screens
Remember those amazing touchable computer graphics on glass screens in the hit movie Avatar last year? Science fact caught up with that science fiction with indecent haste. Before the end of the year Intel were demonstrating such a screen at CES 2009. This amazing screen, powered by the i7 processor, was capable of rendering almost 1 million polygons in real time.

I want one! Make that 2!

Touch Screens that Touch Back
One of the leading pioneers of haptics is the Russian scientist Dr Ivan Poupyrev, currently senior researcher at Disney Research Labs. In an article carried by the BBC last week he explained that:

The basic goal of the technology we are developing at Disney is to create a perception of texture - to let people 'feel' objects on screen by stroking them with their fingers.

We do this by applying a high voltage to a transparent electrode on the glass plate - in this case people will feel a texture on the glass. By varying the frequency and amplitude of the signal we can create different sensations.

The results can recreate the feeling of paper or a textile, simulate the smoothness of glass and even the roughness of sand paper.
While the aim of the current research is more focussed on handheld mobile devices, the scope for this technology in larger PC screens has not gone un-noticed.

Another leading light in this field is Esterline Technologies that are already offering vibration feedback technology to the medical, defense, and gaming industries, enabling display screens to give the sensation of touching back when pressed.

The advances in this industry never cease to amaze me.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

IllFonic Licenses CryEngine3 for Futuristic Arena First-Person Shooter

Denver, CO USA / Frankfurt, Germany – July 13th, 2010: Crytek GmbH (“Crytek”) and IllFonic, LLC announced today that IllFonic has licensed CryENGINE 3 for Nexuiz, their upcoming XBLA and PSN cult futuristic Arena First-Person Shooter dropping this Winter. CryENGINE®3 has allowed the IllFonic development team to achieve their vision for Nexuiz that will push the limits of what gamers can expect from an AAA digital downloadable title.

“IllFonic firmly believes in bringing the consumer the highest quality games at an affordable price through downloadable distribution channels”, said Charles Brungardt, President of IllFonic. “Switching to CryENGINE 3 has helped us stay true to our vision and build the Nexuiz arenas the way we see it without any limitations. We are incredibly proud that Nexuiz will be the first downloadable title developed on CryENGINE 3.”

"We’re delighted to have Illfonic join our community of licensees”, said Carl Jones, Director of CryENGINE Global Business Development. “It’s exciting to see a passionate group like Kedhrin and Charles’ team working with CryENGINE 3 on such a cool title. Nexuiz is going to deliver a game style that will be a blast for the console audience, matched with the best graphics possible on the consoles. We’re delighted to offer our engine to teams for XBLA and PSN titles so that gamers can enjoy the quality that CryENGINE 3 can provide, as soon as possible. Our real-time multiplatform pipeline, Live Create, is highly suited to prototyping and delivering quality for games with shorter development cycles; and you get all the benefits of the AAA features of the engine. Nexuiz is going to be a lot of fun and we’re glad Illfonic have chosen CryENGINE 3 to deliver it in style.”

"When we were strolling around GDC 2010's floor we stopped by the Crytek booth. I watched someone show off a few features of CryENGINE 3. Right then and there, I knew I had to have it. It's powerful, fast and easy to use,” said Kedhrin Gonzalez, Creative Director of IllFonic. “Crytek has been awesome to work with providing excellent support in a relationship that has really benefited us."

Nexuiz is a fast paced Arena first-person shooter with competitive game play built specifically for consoles. Featuring the innovative mutator system, players progress through the ranks opening up new mutators that allow players to alter the rules for each match. On launch, Nexuiz will feature multiplayer modes including Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag complete with full competitive leader boards designed for social networking. New games modes, models, and maps will be available as downloadable content post launch.

Nexuiz is set in a galactic war fueled for centuries by the Kavussari and Forsellians. Over time the two races entered into treaties with the Herald Accord, a union between different cultures in the galaxy. Even though peace settled across their planets, the seething hatred between the races kept the fire of war simmering under the fragile truce. Sensing their newest members could spread war throughout the galaxy; the Herald Accord gave the Kavussari and Forsellians a choice. Pit their warriors against each other in the arena rather than on the fields of war, or face total annihilation. The Nexuiz was formed, a series of battle arenas on the home planets of the Kavussari, Forsellian and the desolate planet of Atavirta.

IllFonic will be showcasing Nexuiz using CryENGINE 3 at this year’s PAX Prime in Seattle, WA, on September 3-5.

For more information on Nexuiz, go to or

About IllFonic:

IllFonic, LLC, was founded in 2007 by musician Raphael Saadiq, engineer Chuck Brungardt, and game designer Kedhrin Gonzalez. IllFonic is committed to delivering AAA games digitally to consoles and PC at an affordable price. IllFonic utilizes many avenues in pop culture to cross brand its products in film, television, sports, music, and clothing. With offices in Los Angeles and Denver, IllFonic has built a team of artists, developers, producers, and musicians that believe providing fun game-play means conveying the highest level of visual awe, an immersive environment and a sick soundtrack. For more information on the company, go to

About Crytek:

Crytek GmbH ("Crytek") is one of the world’s leading independent development studios for interactive entertainment. It is based in Frankfurt am Main (Germany) and has additional studios in Kiev (Ukraine), Budapest (Hungary), Sofia (Bulgaria), Seoul (South Korea) and Nottingham (UK). Crytek is dedicated to creating exceptionally high-quality video games for next-generation consoles and PC, powered by their proprietary cutting-edge 3D-Game-Technology, CryENGINE®. Since its foundation in 1999, Crytek has created the multi-award winning PC titles Far Cry®, Crysis® (awarded best PC Game of E3 2007 and Best Technology at the 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards) and Crysis Warhead® (awarded Best Graphics Technology at IGN Best of 2008 Awards).

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